Riverside County Behavioral Health Specialist recalled how one client changed. Instead of refusing medication and participating only in group therapy sessions, he started working towards his GED as well as supporting his fellow inmates. Over several weeks, his mood changed as she worked closely with him. Lee stated that today he reported feeling happier and that he’s making progress. “Even though the man is currently in jail, he does these things to ensure his stability and that he will not return when he comes out.”
Lee is part of a collaboration with Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Criminal Justice Department’s Behavioral Health Department. Lee and other specialists help the more than 600 men in the facility who are suffering from mental illness. It is part of an overall county program riverside county jail inmate search to change care in order to improve the transition of mentally ill men into the general detention population, and eventually back into the community.
The Behavioral Specialists are committed to providing the same level care for inmates as they receive in other jails. The Behavioral Health Specialists have adopted “day rooms,” which are places where inmates can attend group and one-on-1 therapy sessions. As they get more experience, they can “step down” to other day rooms that best suit their needs.
Aaron Perez, Behaviorial Healthcare Services Supervisor, stated that the 16 programming structure is specialized and geared to treatment and stabilization. “It’s rare to have a housing unit built around treating and stabilizing mental illnesses. This has resulted in a lot more special privileges, day room times, and groups. They receive help to comply with treatment. The goal is that someone coming out of an acute crises or someone coming off the streets with severe mental illness will be taken into our care and stabilized.
“The Unit 16 deputies get to stay in the unit. Perez stated that deputies in Unit 16 are selected to be there because they know the men in 16, and the men in 16 learn from them. “So, when someone acts out, the deputy can tell him, “Oh, that is so-and-so” and he can reply this way. This creates a higher level of familiarity and rapport between the deputies, inmates, and their families.”
Yvonne Tran (Behavioral Health Services Supervisor) said that working alongside the deputies had changed the culture in the facility. “The number and severity of fights has decreased. Deputies have less need to use force because they are better able to talk to clients and deal with their mental health. They don’t resort to force; they must first try to calm the client down — de-escalation.” She said that the number and severity of grievances have decreased and that a group evaluation revealed that clients were highly complimentary of the staff.
Ernesto Guerrero, Clinical Therapist said that the culture among clients has changed as well. “It’s really cool that they have study rooms in the dayroom because it’s their time out of the cell to do whatever – they can phone calls, watch TV or even walk around. You can see their motivation by spending that time doing group homework. It shows their motivation.”
Lee agreed, saying that “If they did not have groups, I don’t believe they would be interfacing with one another.” They would continue to follow their normal jail schedule. They are able to study together or form bonds with one another through these groups. It is a great way to foster positive social interactions.